A photo of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smiling in front of a large Confederate flag is getting new viral attention amid the controversy of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s own racist pictures, with many saying that both men should resign.
The Democratic governor has been engulfed in a scandal after a photo emerged from his medical school yearbook, showing a person in blackface standing next to another person wearing a white Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. Many top members of Northam’s own party have called on him to resign, and many of them are also taking aim at Republican Mitch McConnell, for a similar photo from his own past.
The picture had originally surfaced in 2015 when the United States was gripped in a debate over the display of Confederate flags, following a mass shooting where white supremacist Dylan Roof killed nine African-American worshippers at a Charleston church. As Snopes noted, McConnell made a statement at the time, saying that the “time for a state to fly [the Confederate flag] has long since passed.”
But the surfaced photo showed that McConnell had his own history with the flag. The picture showed McConnell at a Sons of Confederate Veterans event, accepting an award in front of a large Confederate flag. Those who defended McConnell said that the flag was being shown in a historical context — given the organization’s purpose to honor those who served in the Civil War — but it still generated quite a bit of controversy.
“I never understood how McConnell managed to dodge this photo. Look at that smile,” wrote Adam Jentleson, the former Chief of Staff for Senator Harry Reid
How bout Mitch McConnell also resigns for this pic.twitter.com/hXFCsqloHX— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) February 2, 2019
That controversy has resurfaced now in the wake of Governor Northam’s scandal. The Virginia governor has resisted calls from top Democrats to respond, saying it was not him in the photo.
“I recognize that many people will find this difficult to believe,” he said (via Vox). “The photo appears with others I submitted on a page with my name on it… In the hours since I made my statement yesterday, I reflected with my family and classmates from the time and affirmed my conclusion that I am not the person in that photo.”
Northam’s scandal is particularly damaging for Democrats given the stakes in the 2020 presidential election, where Virginia is expected to be one of the most important swing states. Political experts say if he were to remain in office, it could be damaging for Democrats’ chances there next year.
But as Democrats continue to press him to step down, many say that Mitch McConnell should resign as well. At the time of writing, he has not responded to the calls for his resignation.